Phillip Adams wants his slogan back. Customers want their bags back. Qantas wants its reputation back. Time will tell where it will land.

Remove ‘Spirit of Australia’ from all fuselages, tickets and advertising.

Writer and commentator Phillip Adams has demanded that Qantas remove the national airline’s ‘Spirit of Australia’ tagline from all branding immediately. Who is he to make this call, you may ask? He’s the guy who wrote the tagline in the 1980s, when he used to work in advertising. 

A trail of broken promises.

A brand promise is a promise made and a promise kept. The Qantas brand promise is underpinned with its tagline – ‘Spirit of Australia’ – and all the good, decent, and wonderful things and feelings that come with that. Instead, we’ve had:

  • hours-long check-in queues.
  • delayed flights.
  • cancelled flights.
  • sleeping rough at foreign airports after flight delays. 
  • lost luggage (sometimes for weeks).
  • poor customer service (you’ve been “Joyced” is the term for this).
  • woeful call centre delays.
  • snail’s pace flight refunds (if you can navigate their website to claim your refund).
  • unlawful staff sackings.
  • a clunky and expensive frequent flyer redemption system.
  • international airfares that are way more expensive than other airlines.
  • inferior service to other airlines.

All of this has given Qantas the title of Australia’s least-reliable carrier, and it continues to intensify with every cancelled route and lost suitcase. Twitter has been the venting forum for many of Qantas’ unhappy customers. Things got so bad that one customer pelted Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce’s home with eggs and toilet paper at 2am. 

Qantas’ chief customer officer reckons, “We believe our relationships with customers are stronger than one bad experience”. Personally, I’ve had two really bad experiences flying Qantas both domestically and internationally, and I’m still burning over it.

How bad is the Qantas brand damage?

Trying to quantify the damage to the Qantas brand is difficult. But there are at least two surveys with credibility.

JUST IN. The RepTrak benchmark of most trusted reputation, which is widely used by the top 60 companies in Australia as an early warning sign of customer service problems, yesterday ranked Qantas at No. 17 in the World’s Top 100 Airlines 2003: two positions behind Fiji Airways. Qantas was ranked No. 5 in 2022. Plummeting 12 positions is a significant blow for the Qantas brand.

The second survey that has been tracking the decline in community trust in the Qantas brand is by Roy Morgan Research. The previously highly trusted Qantas brand has nosedived, falling 34 places, moving from the 6th most trusted brand in the March quarter to the 40th most trusted brand in the December quarter. The brand now records only marginally more trust than distrust, whereas in the past its trust far surpassed its distrust. 

How much goodwill and trust are in the Qantas brand bank account?

Qantas is the world’s third oldest airline and has long held a special place in the hearts of Australians thanks to its reputation for safety and efficiency, and the emotive appeal of its advertising. It’s an airline brand that inspires deep, patriotic devotion in many. Customers also expect good service from Qantas.

Mr. Joyce released a short video message in 2022 and an email apologising for the “recent operational challenges and [thanked customers] for their patience,” before promising that the airline will be “back to its best.”

As part of the plan to rehash their image, Qantas offered a $50 travel credit to regular frequent flyers, extra lounge access for gold members, and 30,000 frequent flyer points for platinum members. My $50 travel credit didn’t even get me as far as the airport.

Other, more exciting things are afoot at Qantas. For starters, Alan Joyce is being replaced with a new CEO in November. And then there’s Qantas’ world-first excursion into ultra-long haul travel, and the just announced innovative cabin design of its Airbus A350: which will tackle the 22-hour-long nonstop flight. Qantas is expected to have a big couple of years in 2024 or 2025, so watch this space!

Meanwhile, Phillip Adams wants his slogan back. Customers want their bags back. Qantas wants its reputation back, and only time will tell where it will land.

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Spirit of Australia Qantas TVC in 2000.
Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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